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A New Recording Of Elliott Smith’s ‘Plainclothes Man’ Surfaces



The soundtrack of ‘Heaven Adores You’, Nickolas Rossi’s documentary about Elliott Smith, will be released on February 5th, and it will feature some rare recordings and previously unreleased tracks. However, the version of ‘Plainclothes Man’, the 6th song of the soundtrack, has already been posted on Vevo.

‘Plainclothes Man’ is actually a Heatmiser song which was released on the band’s last album ‘Mic City Songs’ after they had broken up and after Elliott had released his debut solo album ‘Roman Candle’. This new recording was actually performed by Elliott in solo in 1996, in a more stripped down manner, whereas the Heatmiser original was louder and heavier in distortion and even a bit grungier. Don’t get me wrong, the scream on a few lines is quite visceral, and the song hasn’t lost anything of its powerful effect.

It’s easy to understand why Elliott would have wanted to record it by himself as it is a very personal song, with his most personal themes transpiring through the lyrics: ‘I only really needed alcohol/Something that’d treat me okay/And wouldn’t say the things you’d say’… or ‘You little bastard, little boy in blue/Someone’s gonna get to you/And fuck up everything you do’…

The song is performed with Elliott’s typical inner anger, so characteristic of many of his songs, and it’s pretty clear that ‘Plainclothes Man’ is about his stepfather’s abusive behavior. Because of its lyrics, this song would have perfectly fit among the tunes of ‘Roman Candle’, although, the music is far less quiet and performed more violently… Elliott may have also opened up about his difficult relationship with his mother in the chorus ‘They say that I’ll recover/My love of her/Once in a while/But I don’t know/I don’t think so/I don’t think so’, as he, rather than talking about a romantic relationship with a girl, very probably expressed his anger toward his mother, who failed to protect him against his stepfather,

The new version of the song was posted on many music blogs and on NME, which always adds a background which goes well beyond the song,… and I was half-surprised to read the following sentence, describing Elliott’s death: ‘Smith died of stab wounds in October 2003, in a case that remains controversial.’ May be some people are finally realizing the truth.


Here is the complete tracklist of ‘Heaven Adores You’ soundtrack

01 Untitled Guitar Finger Picking [1983]

02 Untitled Melancholy Song [1993]

03 Don’t Call Me Billy [early version of “Fear City”] [1993]

04 Christian Brothers [performed with Heatmiser] [1995]

05 Hamburgers [performed with Neil Gust] [1995]

06 Plainclothes Man [Elliott solo version] [1996]

07 Unknown Song (instrumental) [1994]

08 Say Yes [live at Yo Yo Festival 1997] [1997]

09 Unknown (instrumental) [1994]

10 Coast to Coast [early version] [1995-96]

11 Waltz #1 (demo) [1997]

12 Untitled Soft Song in F [1993]

13 True Love [2001]

14 Miss Misery [live on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien”] [1998]

15 L.A. [1999]

16 Son of Sam (acoustic) [1999]

17 The Last Hour [early version] [1999]

18 Everything Means Nothing to Me [1999]

19 Happiness [1999]

20 I Love My Room [1984-85]


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